Intelligent Caring Persons Sometimes Disagree

As faithful Roman Catholics, we believe what the Magisterium teaches. The advantage of having a Magisterium is that we are not constrained by our own personal interpretation of Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, and our own personal failings, false assumptions, and misunderstandings. The Magisterium helps the Catholic Church retain its unity, worldwide.

But the Magisterium has not settled every question with a definitive teaching. On such open questions, the faithful are free to disagree with one another. The other side on a debated question is not necessarily unintelligent or uncaring. Intelligent caring Roman Catholics sometimes disagree on points of theological opinion.

But the same is true for secular society.

There are intelligent caring persons on both sides of the abortion issue. How can this be? As Catholics, we understand that life begins at conception and that the direct killing of any innocent is intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral. But non-Catholics and non-Christians do not have the benefit of the teachings of the Magisterium and Sacred Scripture. The fallen sinner, living in a fallen sinful society, is more easily misled as to the correct answer on controversial questions. And this is particularly true when the majority opinion in that society has adopted the incorrect answer to a moral question. Some intelligent caring persons are, unfortunately, in favor of legalized abortion.

The same point applies to the issue of same-sex marriage. There are intelligent caring persons on both sides of the debate. It is unfair for society to speak as if anyone against same-sex marriage were unintelligent or uncaring. But it is also unfair for us to assume the same about persons on their side of the issue. Some intelligent caring persons are, unfortunately, in favor of same-sex marriage.

There are some acts so clearly gravely immoral that no intelligent caring person could approve of the behavior. Terrorism and genocide are clear examples. But the controversial issues in politics today, debated between Democrats and Republicans, and the controversial issues in religion today, debated between liberal and conservative Christians, have intelligent caring persons on both sides.

It’s alarming to me, though, when persons in society today speak as if certain issues have been definitively decided by secular society, as if society could teach infallibly, as the Magisterium can. Increasingly, conservative Christians are being told that their point of view is a type of hatred. We are treated as if our views were cruel and foolish. And yet we know from the teachings of the faith that this is not so.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and
translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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